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Commentary: Andrew Steele: Political corruption, the show that never ends

Updated: May 22, 2013 12:35PM



Some reactions to the indictment last week of George Van Til, long-time Lake County surveyor and Democratic Party activist:

If the allegations are true, why did he do it? He’s alleged, essentially, to have used office staff and equipment for campaign operations.

But surely he could’ve found other ways to get that work done, to the exent it needed to be done at all. (It’s always seemed to me that local candidates vastly overrate the importance and quality of their campaigning activities, especially the ones that cost money.)

In short: He would’ve won without doing what he’s alleged to have done.

Van Til has pleaded not guilty, and it’s not clear how good the government’s evidence is. But this type of activity, when it does happen, is surely motivated in part by the arrogance that can come with long tenure. It’s another argument in favor of making these department-manager positions appointed, rather than elected.

That would help prevent the establishment of these fiefdoms, especially by long-time office-holders.

Local Republicans can be understood for noting the fact that the list of corrupt politicians is long and Democratic.

But this is more about one-party dominance than about some Democratic proclivity. Political battles in a one-party system tend to be fought off of the public stage. Incumbents have a much larger advantage than they do in a two-party system.

And that helps lead to the decades in office — either a single office, or hopping among several — many of our politicians enjoy. It’d be better to clean the system out a little more often, and that happens better when political power is more focused than it is now.

The Feds, especially in recent years, are big on the idea of following the law wherever it leads. And when one thing easily leads to another, they have the time and resources to tease it all out.

I wonder how many local officials in other areas look at the offenses alleged against Van Til and get nervous. I imagine there are some. As much as people like to criticize Lake County as some cesspool of corruption, I wouldn’t be surprised if, proportionally, there are other counties as corrupt, but able to keep it quiet.

Someone wbo’s apparently not keeping quiet is Roman Perez, who has been charged with lying on his 2007 federal tax return and in a 2009 bankruptcy filing.

Perez allegedly did not report $80,000 in payments from the county treasurer’s office and sheriff’s commissary fund in 2007. The payments to Perez were apparently related to his graphic arts business.

These charges tend to get less attention than the ones against Van Til, but Perez has signed a plea agreement, and is cooperating with authorities, U.S. Attorney David Capp said. So, presumably, this is all “to be continued.”



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